Lacrosse (Care of the Young Athlete)

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Lacrosse is one of the fastest-growing sports in
the United States. It’s both a contact (boys) and noncontact (girls)
sport. Injuries differ between the contact game of boys’ lacrosse (body
contact and stick checking allowed) and the noncontact game of girls’
lacrosse.

Game and practice injuries include injuries to the
knee, ankle, wrist/hand, and face/head. Many injuries occur because of contact
with the stick, ball, or another player, while some injuries happen because of
overuse. Most lacrosse injuries are sprains/strains or contusions.

The following is information from the American
Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about how to prevent lacrosse injuries. Also
included is an overview of common lacrosse injuries.

Injury prevention and safety tips

  • Sports physical exam.
    Athletes should have a preparticipation physical evaluation (PPE) to
    make sure they are ready to safely begin the sport. The best time for a
    PPE is about 4 to 6 weeks before the beginning of the season. Athletes
    also should see their doctors for routine well-child checkups.

  • Fitness. Athletes should
    maintain a good fitness level during the season and off-season.
    Preseason training should allow time for general conditioning and
    sport-specific conditioning. Also important are proper warm-up and
    cool-down exercises.

  • Technique. Athletes should
    learn and practice safe techniques for performing the skills that are
    integral to their sport. Athletes should work with coaches and athletic
    trainers on achieving proper technique.

  • Equipment. Safety gear
    should fit properly and be well maintained.

    • Helmets with face
      masks
      are required for male athletes and both male
      and female goalkeepers. Soft helmets made of foam-type material
      are optional for female athletes.

    • Protective eyewear.
      Female athletes are not required to wear helmets but are
      required to wear eye guards. These are made specifically for
      lacrosse and consist of a metal cage that covers the eyes and
      nose and should be worn at all times.

    • Mouth guards

    • Gloves

    • Additional gear for
      goalkeepers
      includes separate throat protectors,
      padded gloves, chest protectors, mouth guards, pads (shins and
      thighs; arms and shoulders)

Common injuries

Ankle injuries

Ankle sprains are a common lacrosse injury
and can prevent athletes from being able to play. Ankle sprains usually
occur while an athlete is running or cutting. Ankle sprains are more likely
to happen if an athlete had a previous sprain, especially a recent one.

Treatment begins with rest, ice,
compression, and elevation (RICE). Athletes should see a doctor as soon as
possible if they cannot walk on the injured ankle or have severe pain.
X-rays may be needed.

Regular icing (20 minutes) helps with pain
and swelling. Weight bearing and exercises to regain range of motion,
strength, and balance are key factors to getting back to sports. Tape and
ankle braces can prevent or reduce the frequency of ankle sprains. Tape and
an ankle brace can also support the ankle, enabling an athlete to return to
activity more quickly.

Knee injuries

Knee injuries commonly occur from cutting,
pivoting, or contact with another athlete. If the athlete feels a pop or
shift in the knee, then it’s most likely a ligament injury. Anterior
cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are more common in females than males.

Treatment begins with RICE. Athletes should
see a doctor as soon as possible if they cannot walk on the injured knee.
They should also see a doctor if the knee is swollen, a pop is felt at the
time of injury, or the knee feels loose or like it will give way.

Athletes who return to play with a torn ACL
risk further joint damage. Athletes with an ACL tear are usually unable to
return to their sport.

Head injuries

Concussions usually occur with body to body,
body to object (ball or stick), or body to ground contact. A concussion is
any injury to the brain that disrupts normal brain function on a temporary
or permanent basis.

The signs and symptoms of a concussion range
from subtle to obvious and usually happen right after the injury but may
take hours to days to show up. Athletes who have had concussions may report
feeling normal before their brain has fully recovered. With most
concussions, an athlete is not knocked out or
unconscious.

Prematurely returning to play after a
concussion can lead to another concussion or even death. An athlete with a
history of concussion is more susceptible to another injury than an athlete
with no history of concussion. While helmets have not been shown to prevent
concussions, they are recommended for use in contact boys’ lacrosse
to prevent head, neck, jaw, and dental injuries.

All concussions are serious, and all
athletes with suspected concussions should not return to play until they see
a doctor.

Eye injuries

Eye injuries commonly occur in sports that
involve balls but can also result from a finger or another object (like a
stick) in the eye. Any injury that affects vision or is associated with
swelling or blood inside the eye should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist.
The AAP recommends that children involved in organized sports wear
appropriate protective eyewear. Both boys and girls are now required to wear
eye/face shields to help protect them from serious injuries.

Wrist/hand injuries

Contusions, sprains, and fractures are
common injuries to the wrist and hand in lacrosse. Getting hit with the
stick is the most common way to injure the wrist and hand. Boys wear
hockey-style gloves to protect their hands from injuries, whereas girls
usually wear batting-style gloves.

Treatment begins with RICE. Athletes should
see a doctor if their wrists are swollen or painful the next day. X-rays may
be needed.

Remember

Lacrosse injuries can be prevented when fair
play is encouraged and the rules of the game are enforced. Safety guidelines
should always be followed. Equipment should be properly fitted, maintained, and
used.